Wide World of Quotes > Sir Charles Napier Quotes

Sir Charles Napier
British general and Commander-in-Chief in British India

Share this page:

Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.
-- Reply to Hindu priests who were complaining to him about the prohibition of sati (custom of burning of a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband) by the British authorities. (This quote was first reported in the 1851 biography of Napier, History Of General Sir Charles Napier's Administration Of Scinde, by his brother, William.)

-- This quote has been widely but incorrectly attributed to Sir Charles Napier. Upon hearing that Napier had successfully concluded a ruthless and authorised campaign in 1843 to conquer the Indian province of Sindh (now located in modern-day Pakistan), an English teenager named Catherine Winkworth remarked to her teacher that Napier's despatch to Lord Ellenborough, the Governor-General of India, should have been one word: Peccavi (Latin for "I have sinned" and a pun on the English phrase "I have Sindh"). Shae sent this remark to the newly-opened British humorous magazine, Punch, which in printed the joke on 18 May 1844 as fact -- along with a cartoon of Napier striding through the carnage of the battlefield. (The story of this brilliant pun is further recounted in Notes and Queries, May 1954.)

Our object in conquering India, the object of all our cruelties, was money … a thousand million sterling are said to have been squeezed out of India in the last ninety years. Every shilling of this has been picked out of blood, wiped and put into the murderer's pocket , ; but, wipe and wipe the money as you will, the "Damned spot" will not "out." … We shall yet suffer for the crime as sure as there is a God in heaven.
-- Sir Charles Napier, 1840.
"Yet Napier himself went on to conquer Sind, with great loss of blood; and as governor did much to wipe out suttee, thuggism, and infanticide (all in the name of righteousness)." -- Alex May, "Imperial lives in the Oxford DNB", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

We have no right to seize Sind, yet we shall do so, and a very advantageous, useful and humane piece of rascality it will be.

Neither of our authorities tell us, nor can we expect a public document to do so, how the mulatto [Eurasian] who had charge of the Amir's guns had been persuaded to fire high, and how the Talpur traitor who commanded the [Sindhi] cavalry, openly drew off his men and showed the shameless example of flight. When the day shall come to publish details concerning disbursement of "Secret service money in India," the public shall leam strange things. Meanwhile those of us who have lived long enough to see how history is written, can regard it [the account of the battle by William Napier in History Of General Sir Charles Napier's Administration Of Scinde] as little better than a poor romance.
-- British soldier, explorer, translator and polymath, Sir Richard Francis Burton's charge that Napier's victory in the Sindh relied as much on bribery as on bravery. Quoted in: Edward Rice, Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1990

The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed... the human mind is never better disposed to gratitude and attachment than when softened by fear... Come here instantly. Come here at once and make your submission, or I will in a week tear you from the midst of your village and hang you... so perverse is mankind that every nationality prefers to be misgoverned by its own people than to be well ruled by another...
-- Napier's philosophy on how to put down insurgencies. Quoted in: Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars (1972)

War is detestable and not to be desired by a nation. It falls not so heavily upon soldiers – it is our calling; but its horrors alight upon the poor, upon the miserable, upon the unhappy, upon those who feel the expense and the suffering, but have not the glory.
-- Napier's views on war, as quoted in: Lawrence Shadwell, The Life of Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde. (1881). Vol. I.

Share this page:

The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

About UsContact UsPrivacyTerms of Use
© 2005-23 Wide World of Quotes. All Rights Reserved.